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Sick Day Diabetes Protocol

Despite the warming weather, desire to be outside, and love for Spring in the air, it appears no amount of hot tea and cough syrup can appease the cold which has descended upon my sinuses. Sick days truly are the worst, especially when they come out of nowhere and unwillingly confine you to your home.

What many don’t realize, being sick affects blood sugars, especially in individuals with diabetes. As the body fights infection, from the common cold to a viral infection, blood sugar levels rise as a response to the stress of physical illness. The rise in blood sugar is primarily caused as the hormones cortisol and adrenalin are released by the body to combat sickness. These hormones work against insulin and lead to high blood sugars. For individuals without diabetes, a momentary increase in insulin protects the body from high blood sugars. However, with diabetes, the body is typically unable to up-regulate the amount of insulin needed to counteract the increased blood sugars. Elevated blood sugars for a long period of time can lead to complications including the production of ketones from persistently high blood sugars.

Feeling sick can decrease appetite and reduce the amount of food you eat during the day. Even if you are eating less than normal, it is recommended to continue taking insulin and medication, since sickness can cause blood sugars to rise despite a lack of carbohydrates.

Tips for sick days with diabetes

  1. Monitor your blood sugar levels every 4-6 hours even if you are not eating any food/carbs
  2. Continue taking your medication or insulin and talk to your doctor ahead of time about a sick day plan with your medication
  3. Increase your fluid intake as sickness and diarrhea both cause dehydration. Make a conscious effort to drink some fluids each hour even if you are feeling sick
  4. Double check cough syrup, cough drops, and other sick day medications for sugar content: many cough syrups and drops are available in a sugar free form
  5. If you are sick for more than 48 hours, check with a medical provider to see if you may need to adjust your medication for diabetes management
  6. If your sugars are higher than normal or above 240mg/dl, test for ketones
  7. If vomiting occurs and is continuous, check with a medical provider as you may become extremely dehydrated and increase severity of sickness

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.